A Recommendation…

(picture found here)

Ted’s doing a radio/video show called American Liberal, on TRadioV.com, and at the end of the show, they (he and his co-host) give a recommendation…sometimes it’s a book, sometimes it’s an album, sometimes it’s a life thing.  This last episode, Ted recommended an overnight getaway.  I agree wholeheartedly.

Maya went to Los Angeles (Orange, actually) last week, and Ted and I had 4 days together in between her leaving and coming back. She had fun with her cousin, went to look at some colleges, went to the beach and looked at the Stars on the Hollywood walk of fame.

While she was gone, Ted and I did some work (boring), but we also went on an overnight away to Santa Cruz. We haven’t gone on any kind of vacation at all in quite awhile. When you have an old blind dog who needs 12 or more pills a day, plus tends to give you about 15 minutes warning before she craps up the house, you don’t leave town. Too cruel to take her with you, because she’s blind. Too cruel to leave her behind, because she’ll crap up someone else’s house. Between that and the month-to-month of our finances, vacations aren’t as often as we would like them to be.

Way back when, in 1983, I saw The Fixx at Day on the Green, at the Oakland Colosseum. It was the beginning of my Jr/Sr year of High School (I graduated in 3 years), and I was feeling like I had my whole life ahead of me. Which, duh, you do. By the way, that was an amazing concert…Oingo Boingo, Madness, Thompson Twins, The Fixx, and The Police. So I was excited to see them again.

Ted worked a bit on Friday morning…I went for a swim. Then we went to lunch at a delicious and somewhat fancy restaurant in our area, Bridges (remember the restaurant from Mrs. Doubtfire?), and then drove down to Santa Cruz. Back when I was in my early 20s, I used to sometimes go to a place in Santa Cruz called “Cooper House”, with my friends. They had some killer rum drinks. It first turned into a nasty crepe place, which I think doomed it. Then it was destroyed in the 1989 earthquake. Anyway, I like that neighborhood, though it’s gone through a lot of changes since I spent any time at all there in 1986. So we walked around, looked at the shops (some chain stores, some independent…several thrift shops with used clothing), enjoyed ourselves. Then we went to the Boardwalk, and talked about fond memories of our childhoods going on the rides, though neither of us wanted to go on them anymore. I have to say, I’d rather go to Santa Cruz than to Disneyland any day of the week and twice on Sundays. The rides aren’t necessarily as good as Disneyland, but the ocean is RIGHT there. You don’t pay to get in, only to ride. There are decent restaurants right on the pier, in easy walking distance. The lines aren’t NEARLY as long. The smell of salt water is in the air. And while there’s no chance of running into Donald Duck or Ariel while you’re walking around, there are cave people on the sky ride. In the summers, they have free concerts there on the beach. Not top name acts, clearly, because the venue can only handle a couple of hundred people, who bring their own chairs or towels and sit on the sand.

So we were there to see The Fixx, who were amazingly great. They were as good as back in 1983, and I suspect that if I’ve aged, they have as well. And I have. They had two shows, and we stayed to see both, which was a good thing, because they played two separate sets, with different songs. Their new album, Beautiful Friction is really good. Really good. I really enjoyed hearing the songs. But when I heard the songs from the early 80s, I LOVED that even more. At one point, when they were playing Red Skies, I remember thinking, “Oh, the Police are next!” Crazy, huh? It’s been almost 30 years. After the concert, we went to dinner (fastish food, since it was after 10 and not much was open).

On Saturday, we decided to go to see 2 Days in New York, which I’ve been wanting to see, but isn’t in our town yet. I’m not sure if it will make it here. So we went to Berkeley, and then came home after that.

We were gone maybe 30 hours total. It was so nice, so relaxing, just to get away a bit. From home. From work. From responsibilities. From so many things that we actually cherish. I’m with Ted. I recommend it. Highly.

Bloggy Friendships

Me and Heidi
There are different relationships in blogging. There are people whose goal it is to get as many comments as they can get (and there’s a hint of that desire in all of us, I suspect), so they go out and leave tons of comments everywhere. They do Wordless Wednesday and Book Reviews and all sorts of things where you leave your link so others can find you, and hopefully leave a comment. There is nothing wrong with this kind of blogging. I’ve participated in Wordless Wednesday and Book Review blogs myself, and really enjoyed it. But for me, that’s not where the lasting relationships, the real online friendships, are born. The online friendship requires a bigger commitment, and comes from finding someone who touches you in some way, with their writing, their humor, their story. Sometimes it’s all of these things, sometimes less. I do know that I’ve made some real friends here, people that I genuinely care about and miss when they go away. Sometimes they drop off of the face of the earth, and you realize, you weren’t really friends after all. Sometimes, they stop blogging, but you end up being friends somewhere else, like Facebook.

Heidi is such a friend. I don’t remember when I found her blog, or if she found me first, or how it came about. I know we have a few blogs in common, and that she knows my blog friend Chrissy in person. Heidi doesn’t really blog anymore, but she did for several years, and I loved reading about her life in Hong Kong. Her life with her mother, her teaching, her parties and thoughts on the party lifestyle of a certain set in H.K., her aspirations to be a singer (she has a lovely voice, and tons of heart, which is a deadly combination…I mean that in the best way…deadly in that it gets straight to the listeners heart). She came to my blog often, and left long, thoughtful comments. I went to her blog and did the same. Well, the other day, she said something on Facebook about being at Swan Oyster Depot, and I thought, “Wait, that’s in San Francisco!” And lo and behold, she is here! She came to see a friend with a new baby, and to connect with other friends, and to attend the Outlands Festival in Golden Gate Park. Happily, she and her friend Ken (who also knows Chrissy in person) were available to have brunch with me today. YAY! Really, you only have a few days in San Francisco, and you made time to see ME? I love that, and am so grateful.

So I drove into the City, blissfully cool and crisp after the 100 degree heat here, a mere 40 miles away, and we went to the Cliff House for lunch. The Cliff House is one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, though it’s changed a lot since I first went there. It has been there since 1863, and has had many incarnations. But the food is consistently good (not as good this time as the last time I went, I think, but still very good), and the view of the ocean, right there outside of your window, is truly lovely. You can watch the waves crashing on the rocks, watch the surfers hoping for a wave, watch the seagulls swooping and flying around. It’s relaxing. So we stopped there and had a lovely meal, and got to know each other in person. When you meet someone in person, whom you’ve only known online, there’s always that brief fear, what if…what if they are different in person than they are online? What if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? What if we just don’t have anything to say to each other? Always a fear, but it’s not happened yet. I’ve met a couple of blog friends in the past, and they’ve quickly become real life friends. Heidi was like this for me. I felt that I knew her, and she and Ken were both so warm and real, that I was very comfortable right away. I don’t know when we’ll see each other again, since she lives in Hong Kong, and I live in Walnut Creek, and Ken lives in Toronto. But I hope we do get together again sometime. Perhaps in L.A. Chrissy, want to come along?

Monday Randomness

Last week was Ted and my 19th wedding anniversary (link is to Ted’s blog, where you can see a slideshow if you’re interested….we look so YOUNG to me). It seems so strange that so many years have gone by, and yet I still sometimes feel 27. But then I look at my pictures, at my face in the mirror, and I think, oh yeah, I’m not 27 anymore. Oh well. We had a lovely day.

We started off by driving to Muir Woods for a hike, with a pit-stop in Sausalito for sandwiches. We saw a segment on Check, Please, Bay Area about a deli counter in a little market, Davey Jones Deli, and we thought we’d get sandwiches there. All I can say is, YUM. Perhaps the best sandwich I’ve ever had. The ingredients were so obviously made with care, obviously the best possible quality, extremely fresh, all of that. Also, quite innovative. I had the porkberrywich, which is seasonal and not on their menu, and consists of pulled pork, strawberries, raspberries, maybe some mustard in there, and Cole Slaw sans mayo, on a dutch crunch roll. Really, really good. Ted had the Cuban, which was (clipped from their website) ‘Pulled Pork, Ham, Turkey, & Cheese with plenty Irish Mustard, Pickle & Pepperoncini, Fresh Jalapeno, Lemon, & Cilantro, Lettuce, Tomato, & Onion with Roast Garlic & Red Pepper Sauces on a Po’ Boy Roll.’ Maya went traditional, and had a tuna salad sandwich. She wasn’t as impressed as Ted and I were. I think she liked it OK, but she’s loyal to Morucci’s sandwiches, closer to home. I’ll be diplomatic, and say that if you’re in the Walnut Creek/Lafayette area (aka, the wrong side of the tunnel), go to Morucci’s, but if you’re anywhere near Sausalito, go to Davey Jones Deli. It was pricey, sandwiches were $12 or $13 each, maybe a bit more. Three sandwiches, three drinks, one small bag of chips, $42. But you could taste the quality, so I felt like it was money well spent.
Then we moved on to Muir Woods, which was packed with people. Tourists galore. We heard people speaking Italian, German, French, Hindi, and English in many accents, Southern, South African, British. I could have done without the crowds, but the trees are beautiful. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful place. The coastal valleys of California used to be populated with these old growth redwoods, but most of them were cleared for the wood, and for houses. Luckily, people were thinking ahead a bit, and saved this beautiful place. After hiking for a couple of hours, we made our way back to the car for the ride home.
Once we got home, Ted and I wanted to go out to a celebratory Anniversary dinner. Maya didn’t really want to go, which was fine with all of us. It was nice to spend family time together, and then have couple time together in the evening. So I made her a grilled cheese sandwich and some fruit for dinner, then Ted and I went out to one of our favorite local spots, Chevalier. Our favorite part of our honeymoon was in Paris, so we often try to have French food for our anniversary. I went all cheese, with a cheese plate appetizer and stuffed squash blossoms for my entree, which was delicious, but I don’t think I’d do all cheese again. Pretty rich stuff. The squash blossoms are something I’ve seen made on TV a few times, and had vowed to try if I ever saw it on a menu. These were stuffed with goat cheese, and very yummy. Ted started with a salad, and then moved on to a skirt steak. He really enjoyed it. It was a lovely anniversary.

On a more somber note, I went to Stockton that Saturday. I have a friend, Helene, whose lovely 18 year old daughter, Bronte, passed away from complications of Cerebral Palsy and Pneumonia. Helene and I are not close friends, we have not kept in touch over the years, I had never met Bronte, but when I heard of her loss, I wanted to be there for her. I came away wishing that I had met her. Everyone who met her talked about her wonderful, joyous spirit. She will be greatly missed by many people. Mostly, of course, her broken hearted parents. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Also while in Stockton, I stopped to see my Grandma, who hasn’t been feeling well as of late. I was dismayed and shocked to see that she has lost quite a bit of weight. She’s always been a tiny woman, so she didn’t have anything to lose. She looks to weigh about 90 lbs, she’s weak and tired. She needs to eat more, to give herself the strength the get better. She has no appetite. She eats two or three bites, and loses interest. Why does it seem to always come down to food? With my mom, who couldn’t eat, and lost 60 lbs in her last few months. She had the weight to lose, but you can’t really live on your fat, your body needs nutrition. With Genevieve, who didn’t eat much, who had to be coaxed. It’s so stressful. So now the thing is to try to get my Grandma eating, hopefully nutritious foods with lots of calories, but which won’t upset her stomach. The other thing to do, which is amazingly difficult, is to try to accept that perhaps this is the beginning of her decline, and that she may not be with us forever. I don’t want to accept that in the least. I love her so much. She means the world to me. But she’s suffering right now, and I don’t want that, either. Sigh. I feel worried. Last night my dreams were of ideas for fattening foods that I might get her to eat. Not very restful.

What else…we saw another really good movie a few weeks ago, Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s about a magazine intern who’s covering a story for her magazine; a man has put an add in the paper, that he’s looking for someone to time travel with him. Safety not guaranteed. So she pretends to be interested in his theories of time travel, and to be willing to go back in time with him, in order to root out the story. Quirky and wonderful, and ultimately quite touching.

Maya has finally gotten Ted and me hooked on Game of Thrones. She’s been trying for awhile. We don’t get HBO, but for some reason it’s working on OnDemand right now. I have no idea why, but we’re enjoying it. We just finished Season 1 last night. Wowee.

Maya took her first AP class this year, AP European History. She got her test results on Friday, and she got a 5! Wow, amazing stuff. The scale is 1 – 5, and many colleges give credit if you get a 3 or above. She was hoping for a 3. Nicely done. She’s also doing swim team this summer, in a very casual, rec-team sort of way, which means she goes to practice every day, but only goes to the meets that she feels like attending. Fine with us. She has already shaved 6 or 7 seconds off of her time from the beginning of the season. She came to the sport late, starting last year at the age of 15, when you swim 100 meters, and most of the kids had been swimming for at least 5 or 6 years, some more.

Ted’s still looking for work. I’m enjoying having him around the house. He’s sleeping well and getting a lot of time in following his favorite hobby, road biking. Nothing like free time to let you improve your health and bike condition, huh? Unemployment isn’t so bad, really, except for the lack of a paycheck. So he’s keeping his contacts and applies for a variety of things. There are a couple of possibilities out there. Keep your fingers crossed for something GOOD to come along very soon.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Humid Day in Philly = Cranky Baby

Here we are on Mother’s Day, Philadelphia, 1996. It was a humid day, and Maya didn’t like humidity. Good thing we moved back to California, huh? I look so young. That was 16 years ago, so I was 30. Look how dark my hair is! That’s the color of my dad’s hair, actually…his was blonde when he was a boy, and got darker as he got older, just like me. Unlike me, he didn’t care, and let it stay dark. I didn’t want to dye my hair whilst pregnant, so I had it colored my natural color before I got pregnant. Or close. But then I went red for maybe a year, and then blonde again.

That’s a lot of dribble about hair, but what I really want to say is how much I love being a mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there. You don’t have to tell your kids how much you love it, if you’d rather make them feel guilty for all of the sacrifice. “Oh, I never sleep.” “No, you take the last cinnamon roll dear. I don’t want it.” “Oh, I’d love a new pair of shoes or a new purse or a trip to Europe, but you know, kids are so expensive“. Go for it. These things may all be true, but really, it’s the best job ever.

Playing Hooky

Last weekend, Maya asked if she could miss school on her birthday. My first reaction was, No, go to school. Then I thought about it and realized, who cares if she misses a day of school to celebrate her birthday? I mean, if a teacher is absent, they just show a movie in class, so if they can waste her time (once in awhile…not ragging on her school…it’s a good school, with very dedicated teachers), then so can I. Anyway, it seemed like SUCH a good idea, that Ted and I decided to take the day off as well. So we took a vacation day from work, and went into San Francisco for the day. What a good idea that was!

We started out with lunch at a sentimental favorite of Ted’s. He remembers going to Alioto’s (on the wharf) with his father, and really liking their crab spaghetti. Turns out that a Tuesday at 11:30 in March is a great time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. When we lived in the City, we pretty much avoided the Wharf like a plague. Far too touristy, far too crowded, everything mediocre and over priced. But on the first really gorgeous day of spring, playing hooky from work and school, it’s actually a pretty nice place to be. The restaurant doesn’t have crab spaghetti anymore, but they did have a ‘fruits de mer’ pasta that filled in just fine for him. Maya and I had a big pancake breakfast, so we weren’t as hungry. I opted for a crab cake appetizer, which was lovely and just the right amount of food. The sauce was really good, as was the sourdough bread, so I pretty much licked the platter clean. Maya had the very SF dish, clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Mmmm. San Francisco sourdough is the best, bar none.

Anyway, after lunch, we walked over to Pier 33 and boarded a ferry to Alcatraz. I’ve lived in California for most of my life, spent several years as a concierge in San Francisco, and I had never been before. Again, too touristy for the natives. But I found that if I thought of it as California history, instead of a tourist attraction, it didn’t feel so cheesy. And did I mention that it was a GORGEOUS day? San Francisco is such a beautiful city, and on a bright sunny day following week after week of gray rain and clouds, it sparkles like a jewel from the vantage point of a ferry boat. The Rock itself was a mixture of interesting history, a sad reflection of what cruelty humans are capable of, and again, beautiful views. I learned a few things, such as that the lighthouse on Alcatraz island was the first on the west coast, constructed in 1854, at the height of the gold rush and California’s boom period. It later became a military fortification, then a military prison, then the Federal prison for which it became famous. It was retired in 1963, and has operated since then as a national park.

Ted has been before, probably most recently in the late 80s, and back then you were guided through the prison by a park ranger. Nowadays they start you off with a lecture about the decaying buildings and the importance of staying out of areas that are sectioned off (and yeah, you could fall to your death if you’re being stupid), then you go inside and watch a brief Discovery Channel video about the history of the U.S. occupation of the island. Then you pick up some headphones and begin an audio tour, narrated by former guards and prisoners. It’s depressing to see what people can be reduced to, life in a tiny cage like that. But while it made me sad to think of life on The Rock, the beauty of the outside surroundings, and the fact that I wasn’t cooped up at work made it much more palatable.

Overall, it was a truly lovely day. And kind of like a field trip more than skipping class. I think we should maybe play hooky for Ted’s birthday next month. Hmmmm.

What’s new, pussycat?

Chat Noir
(famous black cat image, which I found here)

I’m sorry, little blog, for neglecting you so.  It’s not that I don’t care about you, it’s just that I don’t care about you as much as I used to.  Harsh?  Indeed.  And I’ve noticed that many of my friends’ blogs are similarly neglected.  Not sure what to do about it, but one option might be to, perhaps, come visit once in awhile, write here, and make more of an effort to go visit my blog friends.  Sigh. So, aside from pancakes I made weeks ago, what’s new around here? Let’s see…

Today is St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas was known for (amongst other things) secret gift giving, thus being the predecessor of our Santa Claus. And no, he didn’t live at the North Pole. He lived in what is now Turkey. We celebrate by having some Stollen (meant to represent the Baby Jesus, of all things), though we get the more Dutch version, filled with almond paste. Also, dried fruit. Ted says that dried fruit is a work of the devil, and I can’t imagine that Baby Jesus wants anything to do with Satan, can you? We’ll see what happens there. I wonder what Baby Jesus might think of the Dutch celebration, with Sinterklaus being followed around by his slaves, who might take naughty children away to Spain.

My birthday is at the end of this month, on New Year’s Eve. Cherry and I went out for an early celebration on Saturday. She took me to the best crab restaurant around, Thanh Long, which makes an amazing roast dungeness crab, and some mean garlic noodles. It’s a special treat kind of place, because the crab is quite expensive, and also because there’s enough butter and oil in the crab to clog up your arteries for good, and that’s without the garlic noodles, which come in a close second. Finish it off with a deep fried banana with rich vanilla ice cream, and yeah, you might want to have salad for a few days after that. Not that I’m going to. We’re having steak tonight, ala Ina Garten, with Provencal butter. YUM.

My friend Aimee over at Greeblemonkey has got me hooked on Florence + The Machine, specifically their song “The Dog Days are Over”. One inexpensive and hopefully thoughtful gift I like to give my friends for Christmas is a ‘mix tape’ type CD, and this is definitely going to be included. I’m wondering about the rest of the album. Anyone know if it’s good? Any other songs you’re into right now that I might want to consider including?

Time for a Genevieve update? She’s doing well. She has a bump on the inside of her eyelid that should be removed, but we’re very hesitant to have it done, because she’d have to go under for the procedure. And the thing is, she’s been reacting differently to medications this last year than she did in the past. A pro-biotic she was on for a bit had her totally strung out, pacing the house all night long. An antibiotic she had been on several times before with no issues suddenly had her vomiting. Her vet says she doesn’t want to put her under if we can avoid it, and we’re in agreement. So who knows how that will turn out. But she’s been enjoying the cool winter weather, and while she doesn’t want to go for long walks, once in awhile she’ll start galloping, which is never wise if you’re blind. But on the leash, we let her run a bit, and she seems to really like it.

V-Grrrl mentioned on Facebook how in love she is with SmartWool socks, and everyone who commented on her post said ‘gosh they’re expensive, but I love them so much I’m asking for them for Christmas’, so I bought some for gifts. Anyone else in love with SmartWool? Anyone tried the REI brand, and know if they’re comparable? They looked like they were the same quality of merino wool, but maybe not padded.

Last but certainly not least, today is Richard’s birthday. Wish we lived closer so we could go to dinner with him and Kathy tonight, but since I’m in California, and he’s in Alaska, it’s unlikely. Bummer. Happy Birthday, Richard…I miss you. We’re having steak in your honor. And because we like steak.

Richard and Julie, early 1970s

Meals on Wheels

Dine Out For Meals on Wheels
Back when my mom had her own consulting business in the mid-80s, my Grandma was her book keeper and admin assistant. My grandpa was 20 years older than my Grandma, and so he was home. For awhile, he took advantage of the local Meals on Wheels organization, of their kind volunteers, of the money donated by different organizations and the city government, though I know he paid for the meals as well. A few years later, I met my father, who it turns out was (and still is) a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. They are an amazing organization, enabling seniors to stay in their homes when they might otherwise need to go to some kind of assisted living. Think about our basic needs. Air. Water. Food. Shelter. Clothing. Medical care. Not always in that order. Air and water are mostly safe and provided for most people these days, but when you’re old and not as mobile as you used to be, getting yourself fed something more healthy than a TV dinner (as they used to be called) or a bowl of cereal can become difficult.

So when I was unemployed and found myself with an excess of time on my hands, it was easy to think of what organization to contact. My grandpa, my dad, both connected to this organization in their own way. Also, it’s a job that takes almost zero training. You go and give the organization your driving information, proof of insurance and drivers license. Someone takes you on a dry run, introduces you to the people on your route. That’s it. So I felt like if I got a job and couldn’t volunteer any more, it wouldn’t be such a hardship to the organization. So I signed up. And you know what? Once I got past the first two or three weeks of feeling lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I discovered that I really, really liked it. I found that Thursday was my favorite day of the week. I liked getting out of the house (sometimes difficult when you’re unemployed). I liked feeling needed. I liked the cheerful faces of the people on my route, who remembered my name and were always glad to see me. I found myself enjoying driving around and listening to music and spending a couple of hours in the mild California weather. So when I was rehired by my old employer, I asked if I could keep my route, if I could take a long lunch one day a week to do this thing. If it were a busy day, I would work late, and if it interfered with meetings or whatever, I would call and ask for a substitute driver. And thankfully, my boss said yes, no problem. So I continue to go, every Thursday, bringing lunch and a little conversation to the people on my route. Enjoying their company and thankful for them, for their grace and kindness.

Today is a benefit at our local Meals-On-Wheels, called Bay Area Dine Out, where select restaurants have agreed to donate a minimum of 10% of the day’s proceeds to the local Meals-on-Wheels organizations. The participating counties are: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano. If you’re local, please consider checking out the participating restaurants tonight, and thank them for their generosity in donating to such a wonderful cause. If you’re not local, perhaps consider finding out if your local chapter has a similar fundraiser, or maybe just send them a small donation. Any amount helps. Really.

One Wedding, Three Babies, and a Funeral

Circle of Life
(artwork by Amanda Dagg, found here)

Keep beckoning to me,
From behind that closed door,
The maiden, the mother, and the crone that’s grown old.
I hear your voice,
coming out of that hole.
I listen to you,
and I want some more.
I listen to you,
and I want some more.

She will always carry on.
Something is lost, something is found.
They will keep on speaking her name,
Some things changed, some stay the same.
~The Pretenders, Hymn to Her

That whole ‘circle of life’ thing is much on my mind these last few days. On Friday, I heard from my dear friend Janet that her father had died. He fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. Cancer won. Janet once told me that it didn’t seem fair that we, who both have young parents, should be going through this so soon. I agree wholeheartedly. When I first met Janet, we were going to school at the Junior College in my hometown, and she was living with her dad in a neighboring town. She seemed so worldly to me, having tested out of high school to model in San Francisco and London, after several years of ballet. She was now ready to settle down and do the school thing. I used to love to go to her house after school, watch dumb TV, and have grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes we’d go to our friend Katie’s house, because Katie had a pool. Janet’s dad would come home in the evening, and Janet would cook dinner. If I didn’t have to work that evening, I was always welcome to stay. She went on to Berkeley, I went on to SFState, and we vetted each others boyfriends, etc.  Her father was a kind and fairly quiet man, but always very strong and opinionated, always there for his daughters. I will always remember the look of love in his eyes when he shooed me and the other bridesmaids out of the room so he could have a private word with his daughter before he walked her down the aisle. She and her sister, and her step mom, will miss him terribly. He was a good man. I’ll go and pay my respects to him on Thursday at his funeral, and be there with my friend.

The day after I heard about Janet’s father, we went to Half Moon Bay to attend a wedding for some much younger friends, Ramzi and Katrina. I think they’re 27ish, which is the age Ted and I were when we married, 17 years ago. (I’ll give you a second while you add up and figure out my age. Done? Yes, I’m 44.) It was a lovely ceremony, though I did forget to turn off my phone, which rang right in the middle. Ooops. Ramzi is this tall, kinda goofy, laid back guy. He’s so mellow, just wants to relax and have a good time. He recently graduated with his Master’s Degree, and was hired as a school counselor in a neighboring town. A wonderful job for a man with a big heart. Katrina is a bundle of energy. She could not contain her joy or her energy during the ceremony, and looked like she was about to jump out of her skin. She’s always like that. She had a big happy smile on her face, and was bouncing up and down, sort of like maybe she had to go to the bathroom. It was a wonderful wedding, and a fun reception, though seeing all those young-uns doing their mid-20s dances made me miss my own friends from that time, and how we used to go out dancing and having fun. They’re all far away now, and besides, we’re at a different stage in our lives. The idea of leaving a reception before it ended back then would have been insane. Free booze? Dancing all night? Partying with your friends? What could be better? But we didn’t drink much, enjoyed a dance or two, and then came home to sleep in our own bed.

And the babies, the most joyous part of the circle of life. Cherry had her baby 3 1/2 months ago, and she’s growing so quickly, smiling and laughing and doing all of those terribly cute things that babies do. Oddly enough, it doesn’t make me want to have another baby. Just makes me want to hold Cherry’s baby, and look at old video of when Maya was a baby, and hold her tight now when she’ll let me. Tracy is now a mom, though separated from her babies by a few thousand miles, but only for a few more weeks. She and her husband are adopting two beautiful brothers from Ethiopia, one who will be 2 at the end of September, and one who is just a few weeks old than Cherry’s baby girl. Both Cherry and Tracy have wanted to be mothers for so long now, and it didn’t come easily to either of them. I’m SO thrilled that their dreams are coming true. I love my Maya so much, I cannot imagine the hurt of wanting a baby and not being able to have one. So now that they’re both moms, and Cherry is enjoying her time home with baby before work starts again, and Tracy is getting her house and her life ready for when they bring the boys home, I feel that they are blessed.

Having these three events so close together really brings home the beauty and the pain of life. Tracy’s father died just a week before my mom. Dorothy got married within 6 weeks of that. Then our blog friend Chrissy had her baby a few months later, which was scary because she was so premature, but it all turned out well and her baby is going on 2, and is healthy and strong and independent as can be. I remember when my mom died, we had two gatherings. My cousin brought her new baby to one of them, and holding her was a balm for my broken heart. It’s hard to cry when you’re holding a laughing, healthy, beautiful baby in your arms. My sister brought her new baby to the second gathering, and again, it was somehow comforting to have him to hold. I think it’s something about them not understanding the pain you’re going through at all, they just want to be held and fed and loved, and for some reason, it makes it easier to set your own pain aside for a few minutes.

I think I’ve lost control of this post. I don’t know how to end it, or what it is that I’m really trying to say. Except that my heart goes out to all of these friends, for so many reasons. In pain, in love, and in joy.

What are you thankful for?

This morning I was looking at the local paper, and I saw where a 2 year old boy had been mauled to death by 3 of the family’s 5 pit bulls.  The tragedy that has hit that family has hit them hard, and I would assume they are now a family in crisis.  The dogs (all 5) have been put to sleep.  The grandfather, who owned the dogs, is in jail.  My heart goes out to this family at such a horrific time.  And I’m thankful that, at least so far, nothing that horrible has happened to me and my immediate family.  Which got me to thinking about the different kinds of thankfulness.  There is this kind, where I read about the boy who was mauled, or the woman who was raped recently about 2 or 3 blocks from here, or the woman who was hit and killed by a drunk driver last weekend, on the road that I walk several days a week.  And I’m thankful that this kind of crisis has not hit us.  This is the kind of thankful that makes you want to protect and defend the life you’re leading, hold your loved ones close, and shut out the ugliness of the world.

Then there is the more cheerful kind of thankfulness.   Like walking this morning, when I saw a deer bound across six lanes of semi-heavy morning traffic, and make it safely to the other side.  I was thankful for that, because of course I don’t want to see a deer get hit by a car or truck, and I also shudder to think of what a big deer (200 lbs?) would do to the front of a car, and certainly killing a deer on your way to work is a crappy way to start your day.  Like enjoying the fact that the fog has come in enough to keep the nights bearable, and we haven’t had any horrid heat waves yet this summer.  In fact, it’s the coolest summer we’ve had in several decades, which is mostly OK by me, because I get grumpy when it goes above 100.  It’ll happen.  But so far, I’m thankful for the cool weather we’ve been having.  I’m thankful for my health, and that of my family.  I do not take this lightly or flippantly.  I know too many people who live with chronic conditions to do that.  And I know that no one’s health lasts forever, so I am extra thankful to have mine now.  I’m thankful for the beauty that is the world, for wonderful paintings, interesting music, movies, trees, birds, my dog.   This is the kind of thankful that makes you want to smile at the beauty of the world because you’re feeling good, and you want to share that.

So there are two kinds of thankful here…thankful for what is, and thankful for what isn’t.  Thankful for what we share, and thankful that some of the misfortune of others has not been shared upon us.  Thankful for the gifts we have been given, and for that which has not been taken away.

I don’t know…I feel like I’m skirting the edge of something that I want to say.  I wish there were only the good to be thankful for, and not the lack of bad in one’s own life, which certainly means that someone else is having a hard time of it.

Soundtrack to Love…

The ModernsFor several years after we first married, I would find my thoughts drifting back to July of 1993…”last year right now, we were driving to the pier to pick up the discounted wine for our wedding reception…” or “2 years ago now we were on the plane to London to start our honeymoon…”  That sort of thing.  Well, as the years pass, I find my thoughts going back to specific days less and less, but for some reason today I was thinking about 17 years ago, when we took the train from Amsterdam to Paris, for the last part of our Honeymoon.

We bought coach tickets, but decided while underway that we would prefer to travel first class, which you can do by paying the difference while on the train.  The only bummer is that you have to pay the difference each time you enter a country.  So we had to pay the difference first in Holland, then when we passed into Belgium, then again when we passed the border into France.  Which was fine with us, but there was another couple in our cabin, and one of them wanted us to get the upgrade for free, because we were on our honeymoon.  It was a gay couple, probably as old then as we are now (aka, they looked old), and one of them was kind of grumpy and probably had hoped for peace and quiet the whole trip, so he could read his Dick Francis mystery in peace.  The other one was charmed that we were on our honeymoon, and seemed happy to have someone to chat with during the journey, since his partner had his nose in his book the whole way.  So the happy one kept trying to get the various conductors to give us the upgrade for free.  “But…they’re on their Honeymoon“, he’d smile…no one cared, and we paid full price.  Ah well.  It was a lovely way to travel, and we enjoyed ourselves.  Though first class meant a less crowded car to ride in, not anything fancy like tablecloths or champagne or anything like that.

We arrived in Paris at Gare du Nord, on the night before Bastille Day.  It seems that Bastille Day in France (in Paris at least) is celebrated on both the 13th and 14th, so we arrived to people setting off firecrackers, which sounded a lot like gunshots to me.  Because, you know, I’ve never heard a real gunshot, at least not that I can remember.  Just TV.  So with the firecrackers and everyone speaking French and me not understanding a word of it, and the train ticket machine not working and all, I was completely overwhelmed.  Not to mention that I stayed with the bags while Ted went to try to figure out the ticket situation, and some creepy guy was giving me the eye and I was starting to wonder if I might be abducted and Ted would come back to find just our bags sitting there.  No worries, Ted came back, we got a cab, and found our hotel.  With our room just across from a little bar, where people were drinking mightily to celebrate Bastille Day (we were just a few blocks away from the Bastille, actually), so we were kept up by the sound of partying and bottles being dropped into a dumpster.  On the 14th, we slept through the parade, but did see some huge aircraft flying low over the city, which looked to my untrained eyes to be circa WWII.  We spent several days in Paris, had amazing food, went to museums, walked all over the place, and really enjoyed ourselves.

All of which brings me to the soundtrack for today, The ModernsThe Moderns was a basically forgettable movie (at least, I’ve forgotten it) which takes place in 1926 Paris, which has a wonderful, romantic soundtrack.  Some of it is original music by Mark Isham, and the rest is vintage music from the period.  Love it.   I haven’t listened to it for quite awhile, but it’s been popping up in my mind a lot these last few days, perhaps because of the time of year.  The soundtrack is mostly, if not completely, in French, and always takes me back to Paris, as well as to our wedding reception, where we listened to The Moderns as our dinner background music. It’s a wonderful soundtrack, and really sets the mood for a romantic dinner.  I highly recommend it.

Mistaken Identity

My mom and Maya, just a few minutes after she was born.

My dear friend Cherry is having her baby today…as we speak, she’s going in to O.R. for her c-section, and I’m expecting a call and can hardly contain myself!  Breath, J, breath.

OK, but of course Cherry having her baby reminded me of when I had my baby, lo these many years ago.  I wanted what any new mom wants right then…my mom.  So we planned for my mom to fly from Juneau, Alaska (where she was living), to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where we were living).  At this sad point, I hadn’t seen my mom in about 3 years.  A few weeks after Ted and I were married in ’93, my mom moved to Alaska.  The following summer, Ted and I moved to Pennsylvania.  Money was tight, flights that far are expensive, blah blah blah.  Anyway, the cheapest flight she could find was a red-eye, and when you fly from Juneau, you make several stops anyway…minimum of Seattle, often Anchorage and a smaller airport or two, plus the whole crossing the country thing.  So when we went to pick her up at the airport, I expected her to be TIRED. (Remember when you could go to the gate to meet family and friends off of flights?  We were waiting for her to appear from that little door, the portal between flight and solid ground.)  What I didn’t expect was for her to look as tired as she did.  Or for her to be so tired that she didn’t recognize me.  As I rushed over to give her a big hug, I was horrified to realize that I was approaching the WRONG 50-something, 275 lb, redhead, who used a cane.  I mean, really.  How many 50-something, 275 lb, redheads, who use a cane do you expect to find on one flight?  I only expected one.  There were two.  What a relief to realize that even though almost 3 years had passed since I had last seen her, she hadn’t changed THAT much.

Then, of course, her bright cheery face appeared from that little door, and she lit up at the sight of us, and gave us BIG hugs, and was thrilled to see me so pregnant and know that she was going to be there when her grand-daughter was born.  And yes, she was tired.  Maya didn’t arrive for almost a week after that, though, so she was well rested. 🙂

Happy 14th Birthday, Maya!

monkey014Maya is 14 today, so obviously this picture is an oldie but a goodie.  I have been thinking about the difference between those times when she was a preschooler, and these times, getting ready for high school next year.  Sometimes I miss those times, because she was so sweet and said some pretty funny things sometimes, and if only I had had a blog then….but these times are wonderful and special as well.  Watching her grow from a little girl into a teen, not too long from now into a woman…it’s amazing.  Seeing the things she’s interested in, that I never was.  Seeing the things she doesn’t really care about, that I did.  And those things that we both love…our shared interests.  It’s a wonderful experience, having a child, watching them grow from a helpless infant into an independent adult.  It takes a long time, a lot of work, a lot of bruises and heartbreaks.  I’m so glad that the three of us are on this journey together.  Thank you, Maya, for being such a wonderful kid.

Happy Birthday sweetheart. Remember, you can be whatever you want to be in this world (astronaut, cheerleader, both…). You are smart, funny, talented, enthusiastic, and you have a kind and loving heart. You’re the best daughter a mama could possibly want to have.  Above all, I hope that you know that no matter what, we’ve got your back.

Half Life

Ted and Juile's Indian Prom pic I know, you’ve seen this picture before.  I do like it, though, and gosh, we’re so young way back then, huh?  I was thinking the other day that this is our 22nd year together.  Our first date was December 12, 1987.  Then I realized, I’m turning 44 in a few weeks…which means, I’ve been together with Ted for longer than we were apart.  More simply put, he and I have been together for over half of my life thus far.  How can that be?  How can I be that old?  Kinda strange.  But when I look in the mirror, and see that I’m not that fresh faced, wrinkle free girl anymore, I guess it’s not so shocking.

The wonderful part is that I sometimes feel like that was just yesterday.  And other times, it seems like we’ve been on this long journey together, and here we are, on this path going forward…and still in love with each other, still enjoying each other’s company, still wanting to see each other, talk to each other, spend time with each other.  For over half of my life now.  Wow.

Little did I know, on that date in December, that this would be the man I fell in love with, lived with, married, moved across the country and home again with, had a baby with, raised a child with.  The man I’m looking forward to growing old with.  That this would be the man I would turn to in times of joy and sorrow, for support and celebration both.  All I knew was that he was very handsome, funny, and genuinely nice.  I feel so blessed to have spent this half-life together sweetheart.  Thank you for loving me.